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August 1, 2011
The realization that our natural resources are not endless, and that we need to focus on sustainability is driving technology and its supporting funds toward new choices. In the chemical process industries (CPI), engineers are looking for alternatives to the traditional fossil-fuel-based chemistries, and are developing innovative bio-based routes to meet our needs. There is much evidence of this shift to a...
July 1, 2011
For a little over two decades now, China’s rise in the chemical process industries (CPI) has often appeared to outsiders like a runaway reaction. Low wages, a very low-valued currency and certain government policies have provided the perfect migration spot for jobs, contracts and intellectual property that had previously been sheltered in developed nations. According to analysts, however...
July 1, 2011
I have an ongoing dispute with a longtime colleague, Bob Miller. I said he ruined my new safety boots. He said he didn’t. Bob was a young, fearless distillation engineer at a time when our extraction engineer refused to take a trip to Japan to inspect new trays going into an old extractor. I called Bob into my office and asked him to take the trip, even with zero extraction experience. Bob accepted...
July 1, 2011
To make the modern materials we use every day, such as plastics, metals, electronics, pharmaceuticals, fuels and so on, strong acids are used to convert the earth’s raw materials into modern materials. In fact, so many tons of acid are used (200 million metric tones of sulfuric acid annually worldwide) that the gross domestic product (GDP) of most industrial nations are directly correlated to...
July 1, 2011
Grace Davison (Columbia, Md.; has commercialized a set of catalysts and additives for fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) that contain either zero or low rare-earth metal content. The new product family, known as Replacer, includes new catalysts for processing both hydrotreated and residual-fuel-oil (resid) feed, as well as environmental additives for sulfur treatment. The product family employs...
July 1, 2011
As demand for basic metals grows, engineers and scientists are looking for new ways to extract these elements from ores. “The easy stuff has already been found and processed. One of the main challenges of mining and minerals processing companies is now the economical processing of low-grade ores”, says Steve Rogers, managing director of the Parker Center for Integrated Metallurgy Solutions...
July 1, 2011
Sulfur dioxide emissions from metals smelters and other process plants are typically treated by converting the SO2 to sulfuric acid, but this may not be convenient, because of the shipping cost for plants located far from an acid market. WorleyParsons (Monrovia, Calif.; offers a solution to this problem with a process that converts SO2 to elemental sulfur, which is easier and safer...
July 1, 2011
Researchers from the University of Cantabria (Santander, Spain; have developed a process for incorporating Waelz slag into ceramic clay construction bricks, offering an alternative for disposal of the industrial byproduct. The engineers replaced between 20 and 30% of clay with slag, and found that the inclusion at that level did not have any significant detrimental effect on the physical...
July 1, 2011
The research group of professor Akihiko Kondo at Kobe University (Kobe City, has developed a one-step, pretreatment process for making bioethanol from cellulose and lignocellulose. The process uses an ionic liquid — which converts cellulose into a gel — and a genetically engineered yeast (arming yeast) that...
July 1, 2011
In the emerging and ever-expanding areas of bioprocessing, where maintaining hygienic designs and practices is of paramount importance, and semiconductor manufacturing, which has its own stringent purity requirements, there is a need to standardize the essential codes and standards that are available. The goal is to consistently achieve process systems that meet the highly refined cleanliness and...
July 1, 2011
Last month, Corning SAS (Avon, France), a subsidiary of Corning Inc. (Corning, N.Y.;, introduced the Advanced-Flow G4 Ceramic Reactor — the latest addition to the company’s line of glass flow reactors. The G4 is made of sintered-ceramic fluidic modules based on the...
July 1, 2011
  Waste-to-biofuels Valero Energy Corp. (San Antonio, Tex.; is one of five companies that have invested a total of $60 million in new financing in Enerkem Inc. (Montreal, Que.;, which has developed a process to produce liquid fuels and chemicals from municipal solid waste. Valero, the largest independent petroleum refiner in the U.S., has made a number of investments...
July 1, 2011
Stamicarbon B.V. (Sittard, the Netherlands;, the licensing and IP Center of Maire Tecnimont S.p.A. (, has recently signed a license agreement with Tierra del Fuego Energia Y Quimica S.A., an Argentina based company controlled by shareholders from China. The agreement concerns a urea synthesis plant and a urea granulation plant with a capacity of 2,700 metric tons...
July 1, 2011
Metso (Helsinki, Finland; is supplying a 140-MWth biogasification plant to Vaskiluodon Voima Oy in Vaasa, Finland. When it starts up in December 2012, the €40-million gasification plant, which will be located next to the existing 565-MW coal-fired power plant, will convert biomass (mainly forest residues) into a so-called biogas that can be combusted with coal. The gasification facility...
July 1, 2011
A compact, inexpensive and energy-saving continuous process to make bioethanol is being developed by professor Yoshio Katakura at Kansai University (Osaka;, in collaboration with the Kinki Bio-industry Development Organization (Osaka), Kansai Chemical Engineering Co. (Amagasaki), and Akita National College of Industry (Akita, all Japan). The so-called CCSSF process...
July 1, 2011
A novel nickel-manganese-gallium alloy, introduced by Goodfellow Corp. (Oakdale, Pa.;, elongates in a magnetic field, allowing the conversion of magnetic field energy into kinetic energy. The material offers an alternative to conventional actuators, and could find other uses in energy harvesting systems, breaker switches, sensors and others. Grown as a single crystal using a modified...
June 1, 2011
  Underground pipes A hand-held device for locating buried pipe will be commercialized by Sensit Technologies (Valparaiso, Ind.; under license from Gas Technology Institute (GTI, Des Plaines, Ill.; GTI says the technology is expected to save industry millions of dollars by helping to reduce the damage to buried pipes. The device, which uses acoustic...
June 1, 2011
Scaleup is set for two technologies that facilitate the capture of carbon dioxide from fluegas by substituting oxygen for combustion air. Oxycombustion, as it is called, results in a much smaller fluegas stream, containing up to 90% CO2; part of that is recycled to dilute the O2 and control the combustion temperature. The O2 is entrained in the CO2 stream for injection into the furnace. The companies...
June 1, 2011
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL; Livermore, Calif.; have created a nanocrystalline diamond aerogel. The new aerogel was produced by compressing a standard carbon-based aerogel precursor in a...
June 1, 2011
One of the most important measurements in the chemical process industries (CPI) is rate of flow. Flowrates can be important to measure, and in fact can be critical to measure, throughout a process — from dosing components into a reactor to material transfers in-between process steps, to discharging products at the end. Flow metering technologies fall into four classifications: velocity, inferential...
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